Modern research into consciousness presents one of the most fascinating and crucial challenges for the evolution of knowledge and humanity in general. Despite the advancements in neuroscience, the nature of consciousness remains a fundamental mystery, as evidenced by the fact that there is still no universally accepted definition of consciousness, nor a satisfactory explanation of how it manifests in humans, let alone criteria to establish its existence in other forms of life. In the history of modern science, which in just a few centuries has made wide-ranging and profound discoveries about the natural world, the question of consciousness remains a blind spot at its very center.
The study of consciousness is not only an intellectual challenge; it is becoming increasingly important in light of a series of pressing ethical and practical issues. For example, the rapid development of artificial intelligence has sparked significant debate regarding the possibility that consciousness could arise in a non-biological medium. Such questions become increasingly significant as various forms of artificial intelligence are gradually being integrated into our daily lives. However, without a satisfactory hypothesis about the nature of consciousness, how do we even begin to tackle such complex and delicate issues that are loaded with ethical implications?
A deeper understanding of consciousness would also allow us to address with greater rigor the ethical issues involved in the lively contemporary debate on anti-speciesism. Through determining to what degree different types of organisms can be attributed with mental states and the capacity to feel suffering, the debate seeks to establish definitive criteria for attributing rights to non-human life forms.
Furthermore, such studies have significant implications in the fields of medicine and bioethics. With a more accurate evaluation of the biological and clinical conditions that can be reasonably associated with conscious experience, it could provide fundamental ethical guidance in clinical practice and research decisions.
Buddhism has always placed consciousness at its core; this philosophical and contemplative tradition, spanning over two and a half millennia, has developed sophisticated phenomenological research tools, producing methodologies, languages, and models to describe how consciousness operates. Despite epistemological differences with modern science, this form of contemplative research shows a high degree of rigor and complexity. This has already been recognized by many scientists over the fifty years of dialogue and exchange between Buddhism and science, which has already provided experimental science with important insights into consciousness, its various states, and their neural correlates.
Taking the next step, striving to deepen this systematic form of interdisciplinary and intercultural collaboration could help develop new languages and methodologies, as well as more refined and complex hypotheses, capable of providing a decisive contribution to the advancement of research in this sector. This would undoubtedly include contemplative neurophenomenology, but cannot shy away from the philosophical and epistemological dimensions that can reveal to the research world the complexity of Buddhist contemplative knowledge.
This is precisely what the Research Center aims to achieve in this regard; initially with the creation of seminars to facilitate meetings and the exchange of ideas between scholars from the various relevant fields, but with the longer term aim of promoting the development of interdisciplinary research designs that would allow the Buddhist contemplative field to contribute to the advancement of knowledge such areas.